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Why Marriage?

While marriage is not the only form that families take in our society, the union of two people in a long-term, committed relationship has long been considered by many to fulfill basic human needs for sharing, commitment, and love.

In addition, civil marriage is a gateway to hundreds of legal protections and obligations, most of which cannot be obtained in any other way. These laws form a safety net that helps couples navigate complicated financial and legal situations and deal with crises such as serious illness, death or divorce. Some examples include:

  • Hospital visitation and medical decision-making for seriously ill or incapacitated spouse

  • Access to spousal benefits such as social security, health insurance and pensions

  • Access to family/medical leave and bereavement leave

  • Automatic right of inheritance when no will exists

  • Significant tax benefits, particularly with regard to owning a home together

  • Obligation to pay child support; custody and visitation rights

Marriage…A History of Change

Laws regarding marriage have continually changed and evolved-always in the direction of great inclusion and equality.

  • Until the mid-1800s, marriage for women meant giving up their legal rights and being subsumed under the legal identity of their husbands.

  • Until relatively recently, laws in most states made it very difficult to end a marriage, even an abusive one.

  • Marriage was linked to procreation until 1965 when it became legal for married couples to buy and use contraception.

  • And as late as 1967, 16 states outlawed marriage between people of different races.

Each of these changes was met with fierce opposition, but eventually our society recognized the inequities of such laws. For same-sex couples, these inequities still remain.

Religious vs. Civil Marriage

Civil marriage and religious marriage are not the same thing. Love Makes a Family is working to allow same-sex couples to have access to civil marriage.

  • Religious communities will always retain the right to decide for themselves whether or not to perform or recognize marriages between same-sex couples, just as they now have the right to refuse to marry people who don't meet their own requirements. For example, the Catholic Church was not forced to accept divorce or birth control when they became legal in this country.

  • Many faiths already recognize religious unions or marriages between same-sex couples, even though such unions are not recognized by the government.

  • Many couples choose to have their marriage performed by a clergy person who performs a religious ceremony and also signs the marriage license required by the state. Other couples have no religious marriage, choosing to have their marriage performed by a Justice of the Peace.

Civil Unions vs. Marriage

Civil unions provide only a third of the protections of marriage because they do not include many of the significant federal benefits such as access to a spouse's Social Security. In addition, it is unclear if civil unions would be recognized in other states should the couple leave the state where it is performed.

But even if civil unions provided all the protections of marriage, they still create a separate category of legal recognition for couples of the same-sex. The history of our country has clearly shown that separate is never equal.

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